110 Years of Hoboken FC
Hoboken FC was founded in 1912 making us one of the oldest playing soccer clubs in the United States and the oldest continually active soccer club in New Jersey. A brief history of the club is below.
It all started on March 12, 1912 in Hoboken, New Jersey when athletes belonging to the German Merchant Marines, who shared a passion for soccer, successfully organized the Germania Football Club. The founders of the club were Louis Siedenburg, Bernard Siedenburg, Emil Perlinsky, Karl Zeltmann and Richard Wrenge and its first president was Louis Siedenburg. In the 1913-1914 season, the club initiated the first league games in the former North Jersey Soccer League, in which the club would play for the next fourteen years. In its early years, the club played its home matches at the soccer field at the intersection of Adams and 16th Streets in Hoboken. During the 1916-1917 season, the team was attacked with fists and stones during a soccer match in Bloomfield. Because of that incident as well as other prejudices at the time, the club's name was changed to the Hoboken Football Club of 1912, commonly known as Hoboken FC.
The Inter-War Years
By the 1920s, members of Hoboken FC consisted mostly of German immigrants who settled in the Hoboken area. The club won the championship of the former North Jersey Soccer League in 1916, 1918, 1919, 1920 and 1921. In 1923, the club was one of the founding members of the German-American Football Association, now the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. Hoboken FC remains the only active charter member of the league, having played in the league every year since its founding. In the 1920s, Hoboken FC began playing in its traditional blue and white kits. Additionally, in order to raise funds to erect a fence around the club's playing pitch at Adams and 16th Street, Hoboken FC sold $10.00 club bonds to its members and supporters that would be repaid to the bondholders in quarterly payments. In both 1928 and 1930, Hoboken FC won the Staats-Herold Cup, tournament of German-American clubs.
During the 1930-1931 season, Hoboken FC reached the New Jersey State Cup finals for the first time. Under then cup rules, if a match ended in a draw, the match would be replayed and Hoboken FC played the Bayonne Rovers four times to a draw before falling in the fourth replay (fifth match). In 1931, the club won the first German-American Cup over Phoenix Philadelphia.
Throughout the 1930s, Hoboken FC enjoyed a successful run in the first division of the German-American Football Association (Cosmopolitan Soccer League). Starting with the 1934-1935 season, the league divided the first division into New York and New Jersey sections. Although Hoboken FC was geographically in New Jersey, Hoboken FC played in the New York section because of its closer proximity to the New York City clubs than the further west New Jersey clubs. For four seasons from 1935-1938, Hoboken FC finished in second place in the New York section, missing out by one point in 1938 for a chance to compete in the league championship match. Overall, from 1930-1940, Hoboken FC had a league record of 81-33-67 (W-D-L).
In 1930s, Hoboken FC continued to play its matches at the Adams Street soccer field in Hoboken and would hold its regular meetings on the first Tuesday of the month at Hoek Van Holland Cafe on River Street in Hoboken, which served as the club's unofficial clubhouse. The Hoboken FC team players would also gather at Mac's Bar and Grill located 18th and Willow Streets in Weehawken after soccer matches. In the 1930s, Hoboken FC also evolved into a multi-sport club and, in addition to soccer, had teams competing in track and field athletics, boxing, fistball (a German version of volleyball) and even chess. In 1937, Hoboken FC held its 25th anniversary celebration at the Union Hill Turn Halle in Union City. On that occasion, Walter Heesch was the club's president and the club's first team was coached by Otto Reyer.
In 1942, Hoboken FC won the New Jersey State Cup for the first time. The club won the State Cup again in 1943. Unfortunately, the onset of World War II suspended cup play for three years, preventing Hoboken FC from continuing its State Cup dominance.
Post War Growth & Schuetzen Park
In 1945, the club's soccer field in Hoboken was shut down and the club moved its playing field and clubhouse to Schuetzen Park in North Bergen, a German recreational, dining and banquet facility, which included a soccer field. Additionally, due to the world war, immigration to America was suspended preventing the club from getting a new influx of younger players from oversees. As a result of the lack of new immigrants, the general aging of the then members who had been in America for some time, and the scares of World War II, English began to replace German as the primary language at the club. Although the general membership remained predominately German, the Hoboken FC soccer teams also became more multicultural and started to include players of different nationalities as well as native-born Americans.
Although Hoboken FC managed to stay in top flight for most of the 1940s, the 1948-1949 season saw Hoboken FC finish with a record of 1-0-17 and get relegated to the second division. Hoboken FC did manage a quick comeback and, after finishing the 1949-1950 season with a record of 17-1-2, the club was promoted back to the first division.
Big Trips & State Championships
By all accounts, the 1960s were fun and exciting times for Hoboken FC. Although mass immigration stopped after the first few years of the decade, Hoboken FC had a healthy membership, which was looking to take the club places, both figuratively and literally. In 1960, Hoboken FC undertook a good will tour to Canada and to the surprise of many captured the German-Canadian Cup, a tournament of clubs with ethnic German backgrounds. In 1962, Hoboken FC celebrated its 50th anniversary with gala at Schuetzen Park and in the same year undertook its first tour of Germany playing in Karlsruhe and Wuerzberg and topping Wuerzberg 04 by a score of 4-2. The club would take additional team tours to Germany in 1964 and 1967. During the 1964 trip to Berlin, Hoboken FC tied a combined SV Spandau and BSV 92 team with a score of 1-1.
On the field back at home, in 1961, Hoboken FC won its third State Cup with a 3-1 win over the Newark (Union) Ukrainians. The club would again win the State Cup in 1964 by topping Haledon SC 3-2. Hoboken FC also reached the State Cup finals in 1967 before falling to league-rival SC Elizabeth in the championship match. In league play, Hoboken FC played mostly in the second division throughout the 1960s with only two seasons in top flight, but finished with nine winning seasons during the decade.
Hoboken FC in Changing Times
The 1960s were a transitional time. At the start of the decade, many of the club's members still lived in Hoboken or the surrounding area, but as the 1960s progressed, more and more of the membership would move to suburban areas. The City of Hoboken, itself, was also changing as the city became a less desirable place to live and many of the ethnic German bars and restaurants began to close. By the 1970s, the bars of Hoboken were no longer the focal point of the social life of Hoboken FC, being replaced by suburban garden parties. Thus, when in 1975, the club was informed by the management of Schuetzen Park of its intention to sell the soccer field to a real estate developer, the natural response was to find a field in suburban Bergen County and, starting with the 1975-1976 season, the club began to play its home matches at Overpeck County Park.
While the club's official name remained the Hoboken Soccer Football Club, with the move to Bergen County and the lack of substantial ties to the City of Hoboken, in 1976, the club adopted the name "Bergen Kickers" for its men's open teams and its junior program. Name changes were common in the 1970s. The club's rivals Newark SC and Elizabeth SC began playing as Union County SC and Union Lancers, respectively, and in 1977, the German-American Football Association, changed its name to the Cosmopolitan Soccer League to better reflect its ethnic diversity.
On the field, in 1970, both the club's first and reserve teams won their group championships and during the decade, moved consistently between the first and second divisions. The club won the Rheingold Tournament in 1973. In 1975, Hoboken FC won the New Jersey Division of the National Open Cup and, in 1976, won the New Jersey Division of the Men’s Amateur Cup. The club also started an Over-40 team known as the "Hoboken Travelers" in the early 1970s and expanded its junior movement, fielding five, mostly American, youth teams by 1979.
League Success For Kickers
In the 1970s, Hoboken FC would regularly move between the Cosmopolitan Soccer League's first and second divisions. In 1981, Hoboken FC again won promotion to the Major (First) Division and, this time, would remain in top flight for 13 seasons. The highlight was in 1985 when, after coming close many times, the club under the direction of general manager Gus Sherdel and head coach Colly Charles, finally won the overall championship of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League in a home-and-home aggregate goal series. After falling to long-time rival Elizabeth SC (Union Lancers) 1-0 at Farcher's Grove, the Kickers won the return match 2-1 at Overpeck Park, forcing an overtime period. In the 115th minute, Peter Matischak netted the game winner, giving the club its only league title to date.
The "Bergen Kickers" also won the CSL League Cup in both the 1986-1987 and the 1989-1990 seasons and in 1988 won the New Jersey Cup of Champions tournament. Hoboken FC continued to play in the CSL first division until 1994. The club also continued its junior movement and the Hoboken Travelers, the club's Over-40 team, won their league championship five times during the 1980s.
Transition, Decline & Rejuvenation
By the middle of the 1990s, the local soccer scene had changed and Hoboken FC, like many older clubs, began to experience a decline in membership. Additionally, while for many decades youth soccer teams had been run by members of established soccer clubs, by the 1980s, local municipalities began to run their own youth programs. Thus, by the 1990s, clubs such as Hoboken FC could no longer compete with local organizations and ceased having youth programs. During the 1990s, Hoboken FC also lost its traditional rivals, Elizabeth SC and Newark SC, which stopped fielding both youth and adult teams.
In 1994, the Kickers were relegated to the second division. After a period of adjustment, the club found stability in the second division and by 1997 missed out on promotion by only two points. A bright spot was also the club's reserve team, which won its group championship in 1998 and 1999.
In the new century, the trends of the 1990s continued at an accelerated pace. A declining membership caused the club to lose sponsorship revenue and to stop charging entry fees at home matches. The lack of gate money, a decline in membership dues, and the lack of youth programs resulted in a substantial reduction in revenue. This, in turn, caused a reduction in sport activities as Hoboken FC no longer entered the State Cup tournament or participated in winter and summer leagues. In 2002, for the first time in over 80 years, the club stopped fielding a reserve team, which under league rules required the club to self-relegate from the second division to the fourth division (Metro 2). The results on the field were also less than stellar - in five seasons from 2000 to 2004, Hoboken FC posted a combined record of 18-15-50 (W-D-L). In 2005, as a result of league expansion, Hoboken FC was promoted to the third division (Metro 1). However, the team continued to struggle on the field, posting a two-season record of 5-1-28, barely surviving relegation both seasons.
It was at this time that the club could have thrown in the towel like many of its traditional rivals had done. However, instead of giving up, the membership made a conscious effort to rebuild Hoboken FC. One of the most significant changes was integrating the players into the membership of the club. The players would now be partners in the rebuilding process and would pay an annual membership fee. In 2006, the club began to again brand itself as "Hoboken FC". In 2007, Hoboken FC re-entered the New Jersey State Cup and again fielded a winter indoor team. After laying a foundation for a few seasons, the 2009-2010 season saw Hoboken FC re-establish a reserve team, return to the second division and advance to the State Cup quarterfinals. That season, Hoboken FC also established its first Over-30 team in 20 years. In the 2010-2011 season, the club posted a winning record and in the summer of the 2011, Hoboken FC won the Jersey Sports Summer League in Hoboken.
During the 2011-2012 season, Hoboken FC celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala dinner/dance at the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel in Secaucus. On the soccer field, Hoboken FC, under the direction of general manager Bill Marth and head coach Andrew Darby, won its first New Jersey State Cup in 48 years. After playing a 120 minute 2-2 match, Hoboken FC won a thrilling 3-1 shoot-out over Jersey Shore Boca. In league play, the club won promotion to the league's first division, returning to top flight for the first time in 18 seasons and was also the runner-up in the 2011-2012 CSL League Cup.
Most significantly perhaps, in 2012, in honor of its 100th anniversary, Hoboken FC undertook its first team trip to Europe in 45 years, playing some of the same teams the club had played in the 1960s. During the trip, Hoboken FC topped BSV 92 in Berlin and FV Daxlanden in Karlsruhe by the scores of 2-1 and 5-2, respectively.
A New Era of Relevance
The 2012-2013 season saw Hoboken FC finish with a record of 4-0-12 and get relegated back to the second division. However, the club managed an impressive turnaround and, in the 2013-2014 season, Hoboken FC finished with its most points ever and again won promotion to the first division. Hoboken FC also reached the State Cup final, falling 2-1 to Portuguese Sports Association in overtime in the championship match. In 2012, Hoboken FC also started a women's program and the club's women's team won its group championship in both 2013 and 2014. At this time, the club moved back to Hudson County full-time, playing its home matches at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus. In 2015, the club took another trip to Europe, this time traveling to Italy to play two matches - and winning both - against USD Borgoprimomaggio and Oldest FC. In 2016, the Hoboken FC Women won the NJ Women's State Cup for the first time in the club's history. The Over-30s also won the 2015-2016 CSL Over-30 League Cup.
After playing three seasons back in the second division, Hoboken FC again won promotion in 2018 with both the club's first and reserve teams winning their divisions. During the 2017-2018 season, Hoboken FC also took another trip to Europe, this time to Spain and Portugal. While oversees, the club played two matches in Barcelona, against the University of Barcelona and C.E. APA Poble Sec.
In 2019, the Hoboken FC Women won their first league title capturing the Garden State Soccer League A Division championship with three matches left to play. That season, the Lady Kickers won the treble by also winning the NJ State Cup and GSSL League Cup. In 2019, Hoboken FC also travelled to London and was hosted by the Wallington Sports & Social Club, playing a friendly match and attending Premier League matches. Off of the field, having a revived younger membership has allowed Hoboken FC to organize many club events including ski trips, tailgates and numerous well-attended team parties at social establishments in Hoboken.
Hoboken FC is excited that it again has a strong foundation and that it will continue to grow and be the premier soccer club in New Jersey, with players, members and supporters who respect its past and are excited about its future.